According to scientists from Columbia University, New York and the Northeast USA, a new variant of the coronavirus has emerged, containing mutations that help it avoid the body’s natural immune response, among other things. The researchers emphasize that viruses are constantly mutating. The problem begins when the virus acquires disturbing properties, such as easier transmission or the ability to avoid treatment and vaccines.
Researchers have identified the new coronavirus variant as B.1.526. They indicate that he appeared in the city of New York and in the northeast of the USA. In their opinion, this variant contains mutations that help it avoid the body’s natural immune response. Monoclonal antibodies, i.e. those that neutralize only one specific antigen, do not protect against it.
As CNN points out, one mutation resembles the one found in the B.1.351 coronavirus variant, first observed in South Africa and increasingly widespread, which was stated to “seem to some extent elude the body’s response to vaccines” .
A disturbing mutation
The researchers emphasize that viruses are constantly mutating. The more people are infected and the longer the epidemic lasts, the more likely a mutation will occur. Most come and go, others stay and are broadcast. If – as explained by CNN – the mutation is passed on and the virus with a given pattern becomes more common, it is called a variant. Again, the mere appearance of a variant is not unusual. The problem begins when the virus acquires disturbing properties, such as easier transmission or the ability to avoid treatment and vaccines.
Researchers were concerned about the E484K mutation, which they believe has the ability to partially avoid the body’s immune response, as well as monoclonal antibody therapy.
“Seems to avoid antibody pressure”
Scientists conducting research on variant B.1.526 observed that the detection rate of the new variant has been increasing in recent weeks and that the pathogen may soon become more common than the British and South African variants.
“However, we do not now have sufficient data to confirm this,” admitted Dr. David Ho, director of the AIDS research center at Columbia University Aaron Diamond.
The E484K mutation has been observed – according to CNN – in at least 59 different coronavirus lines, which may mean that it is evolving independently in the US and around the world.
The reports surfaced shortly after the media reported on the results of an independently conducted study in California. A variant of the coronavirus found there, called B.1.427 / B.1.429, according to scientists, not only spreads faster than before, but is also more resistant to antibodies produced by vaccines to COVID-19 or an earlier infection.
Some city and state officials have criticized the recently announced findings as premature and based on unfinished research.
New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi, who is quoted by NBC, said there was no evidence that the variant identified by New York researchers contributed to the spike in coronavirus infections. As he argued, their number – since the jump associated with the holidays – is still decreasing.
Main photo source: PAP / EPA / JUSTIN LANE